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Hamas: Unity thumbs nose at Israel threats

April 28, 2011 11:58 A.M. (Updated: April 29, 2011 1:11 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Hamas leader Ismail Radwan confirmed Thursday that a final reconciliation deal would be signed next week in the presence of party leaders, in what he called a "practical response" to Israeli threats attempting to derail the process.

"We can best deal with the threats by signing and implementing the agreement," Radwan said in a statement which congratulated Egypt on its work in mediating the deal.

The official urged a halt to security coordination with Israel and said Palestinians must "hold fast" to national principles.

Meeting the skeptics

Beyond comments from Israeli leaders threatening to cut off tax revenue transfers, saying a deal with Hamas would be the end of the peace process and warning that diplomatic privilege for PA leaders would be halted, Fatah and Hamas officials also had to address skepticism from the Palestinian street.

Conditions of the latest Fatah-Hamas unity deal are "different," head of Fatah's unity deal delegation Azzam Al-Ahmad told Ma'an Thursday morning, as details about the deal continued to emerge, nominally assuaging Palestinian doubts over its veracity.

"Israel is now the only side that benefits from the division, which was one of the final obstacles to the establishment of a state,' Al-Ahmad said, calling on media and civil society groups to show strong support for the initiative, which will see the creation of an interim technocratic government to oversee the implementation of elections.

Details start to emerge

Al-Ahmad said the agreement also created a large space for the Arab League to supervise its full implementation, and promised a "government of competent leaders" would transition Palestinians into their first election since 2006.

"The Arab revolutions had their impact on the process," Hamas unity delegation chief Musa Abu Marzouq told Ma'an, remaining silent on further details until they are presented to an all-factions meeting in Cairo next week, at which point Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash'al and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are also expected to okay the deal.

Under the new technocratic government, Abu Marzouq said, the political program will be decided by the president, and will be agreed upon by all parties.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar said in a statement late Wednesday night that implementation would begin immediately after the deal was signed by all parties.

Names had already been selected for the to-be-appointed Central Election Commission, he said, referring to the body that would oversee presidential, legislative and Palestinian National Council elections within one year after the agreement was signed.

The committee charged with amending the PLO constitution would be reactivated and changes would be made and passed by the PLO Executive Committee, Az-Zahhar said.

A Higher Security Committee would be enacted by a presidential decree, and the Palestinian Legislative Council would be reactivated until elections were held, the official added, noting that the former had been a requirement of Hamas since the first unity document had been abandoned.

Mixed reactions

Wednesday's deal, which came after 18 months of fruitless talks, drew praise from PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who expressed the hope it would be "an essential and important step to proceed to the immediate establishment of national unity."

It was also hailed by Iran, which said it would "speed up developments in the Palestinian arena and the gaining of great victories" against Israel.

Senior US congressmen, however, warned that a Hamas "merge" with the PA could jeopardize the millions in aid money sent to the PA each year.

PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi urged the international community to accept the unity agreement and support Palestinian efforts to unify their political sphere, saying it would only strengthen chances for peace.

UN envoy for Mideast peace Robery Serry said in a statement that he "strongly supports" the deal, saying it was the clearest way to move forward with a negotiated two-state solution to end the conflict.

Israeli officials, however, warned that the move would see Hamas take over in the West Bank and threaten stability.

Years of division

Following their sweep to power in the 2006 elections, international decisions to boycott the party and an attempt to cobble together a unity government in 2007, Hamas forces clashed with Fatah and eventually split into separate governments, one in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip.

Revolutions overthrowing unrepresentative regimes across the Middle East took root for Palestinians in a call end the rivalry, which had largely prevented the holding of elections at the municipal and national levels. Since March 15, protesters demanding Palestinian unity came onto the streets, camped out in public squares, and held hunger strikes.

The Palestinian Authority had called for municipal elections in July and a national legislative vote in September, but said the ballot boxes would not come out unless Gaza participated.

Under the current agreement, a technocrat government would hold national elections within the year, but no mention was made as to the fate of a municipal vote.
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